Short Answer: In an eminent domain context, YOU DON’T KNOW.

Long Answer: It is the one question the attorneys at Sever Storey receive on an almost weekly basis. Naturally, as a landowner in the path of a road project, the one piece of knowledge that you want to know is the value of your property. And for good reason. On what basis can you negotiate with the State if you have no idea what your land is worth to begin with?

The reality, however, is that you can’t know what your land is worth without expert analysis. It isn’t just about per acre value. It isn’t just about what your neighbor sold his land for. It isn’t just about your proximity to a highway. It isn’t just about what structures you have on the land and how much parking you have. It isn’t just about the market strength or weakness.

It is about ALL of these things.

Because it is about all of these aspects, the only way to truly know what your land is worth (and subsequently what you’re entitled to under the law) is to employ experts who know what the relevant legal aspects are–experts who have the lengthy and experienced history to find every nook and cranny of the law and apply it in the landowner’s favor.

For example: Farmer John owns 40 acres of fresh, tillable land right next to an interstate. He’s owned it for 50 years and has never done anything but farm on it. The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to put an on-ramp onto the highway and place it on the SW corner of Farmer John’s property. IDOT’s plan is to make this interchange a commercial corridor, attracting gas stations and restaurants. With the right experts, you can make the argument that even though Farmer John has never used his property for anything besides farming, given IDOT’s plans his land should be valued as commercial land.

Any farmer will tell you that as valuable as agricultural land is (usually between $6,000-$10,000 an acre), commercial land is much more valuable (often six figures). This argument is called “highest and best use.” If confronted with condemnation/eminent domain, Illinois law permits a landowner to envision his or her property at the highest and best possible use. This is a legal safe haven for landowners. It is of the utmost importance for a landowner to take what the law provides you because IDOT sure as heck won’t.

–Jordan Walker, Sever Storey Illinois Attorney

If you think you may be subject to eminent domain/condemnation, would like more information about legal strategies, and/or are interested in a free consultation or site visit, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at